The software development field is growing rapidly. Developer jobs are expected to grow by 22 percent by 2029 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, much faster than the four percent growth expected in other job categories.
With such rapid growth, you’d think there’d be space for everyone to start coding jobs or other tech roles. And you’re right, although the numbers don’t always reflect that reality. While women were once the majority in the programming world, today they only make up 20 percent of working coders.
There are many reasons why this discrepancy has continued to grow; one of them is the lack of welcoming spaces for women to grow as coders. MIT xPRO, through its partnership with Emeritus, is looking to make more room for women in the coding revolution with its women-only coding bootcamps.
Starting April 30, women all over the world will be working online to claim their rightful role in tech through the MIT xPRO Women’s Cohorts.
What Is Emeritus?
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Emeritus is a learning platform that works with top universities to build certificate programs for students. Its MIT xPRO software development courses offer exclusive video content from MIT faculty. This content includes lectures, explanations, coding demos, coding challenges, and more. Students build hands-on projects to round out their portfolios to showcase their original work.
Emeritus students also get career support to help them jumpstart their new path after program completion. Students watch on-demand videos that teach them how to strengthen their job hunting strategies and get paired with career coaches and mentors who prepare them for the road ahead.
The career coaches provide interview tips, give salary guidance, and teach students how to make a great pitch. The industry mentors give students first-hand insight into the job search and what they can expect as they enter the field.
For the women-only cohorts, Emeritus has adapted this career guidance to prepare its female students for the unique challenges that they’ll face as they make the career transition into the tech industry. The one-to-one career coaching allows students to enter the tech world informed, prepared, and ready to grow.
Why a Women-Only Bootcamp?
The makeup of tech workplaces isn’t reflective of the population at large, where women make up slightly more than half of the population. There are a few reasons for this discrepancy. Society still struggles to understand gender inequality at large, but representation matters, and because fewer women are visible in the tech field, other women may not feel they can succeed.
Erin Rosenblatt, Director of Professional Certificates at Emeritus, has seen how even the best bootcamps can unintentionally discourage women from pursuing their dreams in tech.
“I’ve been in tech education for a long time, so I’ve seen first-hand how overwhelmingly male a lot of these programs can be,” Rosenblatt said. “There are many reasons for that, a lot of systemic reasons, and role models are super important for making people believe that they can even attempt something like that. When they imagine a software developer or a computer scientist, people tend to have a certain picture in their minds.”
Shortly after Emeritus hired Rosenblatt, she started working to bridge the gender gap in tech. She realized that a lot of women who attended coding bootcamps felt a lot of added pressure, which was hurting their learning experiences.
“As I was sitting in on lectures and watching students do pair programming or coursework together, [I was] noticing just how challenging it was for the women students in these programs to find their voice,” Rosenblatt said. “To feel like they could ask questions, admit that they didn’t know the answer to something, or that they were confused, or to say that they did know the answer.”
Reaching Your Potential Without The Extra Pressure
Rosenblatt felt that some students weren’t reaching their full potential. They had to fight to make themselves heard among well-meaning classmates. Sometimes they didn’t feel comfortable admitting they needed help because they didn’t want to look less capable than the men around them.
“They would just get their confidence ground down little by little until they weren’t willing to go out on a limb and try to say that they know the answer to something,” Rosenblatt said. “In the worst cases, they were losing their confidence completely and dropping out, and that wasn’t something that needed to happen.”
So Rosenblatt came up with the idea of offering women-only cohorts to give students access to the MIT xPRO curriculum in a supportive environment. Though two men teach the course material, you’ll work with learning facilitators, industry expert mentors, and career coaches who are women that understand the unique challenges that women face when entering the tech field.
“Learning something new is really scary,” Rosenblatt said. “Going out on a limb, especially to learn a new career, it’s something that you have to make yourself vulnerable to do. Learning how to code is completely shifting the way you think about things and your mental models, and it’s painful and it’s scary and it’s challenging. If you’re not comfortable, it’s so much less likely that you’re going to succeed. If you’re not in an environment where you feel like you can fail or make mistakes, you can’t ever reach that vulnerability that you need to to be able to overcome that.”
Luckily, everyone at MIT xPRO and Emeritus was on board with Rosenblatt’s line of thinking as soon as she started presenting her solution.
“The whole reason we’re here is to expand access to education, new careers, and career growth, so of course everyone [at Emeritus] thought it was our wheelhouse and said, ‘Sign us up’”, Rosenblatt said. “And then we brought it to the team at MIT xPRO and they were all over it. MIT has, for over 20 years, been really pushing to balance out the gender ratios in their programs. Obviously, they’re a STEM school, and STEM careers and higher ed programs tend to be pretty imbalanced. MIT is keenly aware that that’s not ok and that’s not the direction that they want to see STEM fields going, and they want to be a part of that solution.”
The two MIT professors leading the course, Dr. John Williams and Dr. Abel Sanchez, have already worked diligently to help women break into tech.
Williams recently ran a program for Chilean high schoolers as part of a partnership between the U.S. ambassador to Chile and MIT’s Latin American Office in Santiago. The students that attended the program were evenly split between male and female.
Sanchez also established his own program in Latin America specifically for young women.
“Abel Sanchez has actually founded a program called Beautiful Patterns that works to introduce young women in Latin America to computer science and computational thinking,” Rosenblatt said. “He already has this passion project that’s along this similar line, so he was particularly excited about the sort of thing that we’re driving towards here.”
As Rosenblatt mentioned, despite making up almost half of the U.S. workforce, women only make up about 27 percent of the STEM workforce. To help correct this imbalance, the program makes a number of important changes to the MIT xPRO structure.
How Does the Course Work?
The course structure that’s made Emeritus’s coding courses a success is still in place, but you’ll be working with women almost exclusively to get through the program.
Full-Stack Web Development Curriculum
Students will learn the MERN stack from videos by Williams and Sanchez. You’ll be learning alongside other women that are in the same situation as yourself with a support staff comprised entirely of women.
Gender-Focused Career Help
Beyond the curriculum, Emeritus has prepared supplementary job prep sessions and career advice sessions, especially for women. These sessions cover some of the unique situations that women may face.
One session, for example, teaches students how to advocate for themselves and make their voices heard if they find themselves as the only woman on their engineering team. This is just one way that students in the women-only cohorts learn how to navigate the workplace while building the hard and soft skills they need for a long career.
“Obviously, if you’re going to get a coding job you need to learn how to code. But if you’re going to be a woman entering a male-dominated tech field, there are things that you should be aware of,” Rosenblatt said.
“There are skills that you’re going to want to get some chances to practice in a safe environment so that you can be advocating for yourself in the right way and making sure your voice is heard in team meetings. Those things are challenging for anybody, but when you’re the only person representing your demographic group or part of a small group on your team, it takes extra work to make sure you’re representing your views and getting your point across.”
In addition to the strong curriculum and gender-specific career help, students also get a chance to get their very own MIT xPRO certificate upon completing the program. This certificate can impress potential employers, and ease a graduate’s transition into the job market.
Because you’ll be learning from real MIT computer scientists, the program will be challenging. But you’ll have empathetic support to help you make the career change you’ve always dreamed of.
This program from MIT xPRO puts women’s needs first, making it a great opportunity for women to enter the world of tech. The other programs at the institution are all just as good, but if you want a more tailored experience, then this could be right for you.
The first bootcamp begins on April 30, but with new cohorts starting each quarter, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to claim your certification.
Visit the MIT xPRO site for more information today, and start your journey to a higher salary and a more fulfilling career. You could end up being an empowered woman, empowering other women.
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